Art Around Columbia: “Cypher”


Cypher by Albert Paley

Isabel Gompper

Growing up in Columbia, I would often visit the Daniel Boone Regional Library. It is filled with information and stories that filled my childhood with joy. When my family decided to take a trip to the library, I always knew when my family and I were close to the building because I could always see the bright yellow structures outside the front entrance.
“Cypher” was created in 2002 by artist Albert Paley after an anonymous donor founded the sculpture’s creation. The artwork stands thirty feet tall and weighs more than 56,000 pounds. Cypher was crafted out of steel and colored a shiny yellow that is not normal for most artworks, but yet the works oddly fits amongst the brick walls of Daniel Boone Regional Library. Paley later said that he wanted his works to be considered the guardians that “herald the entering and exiting of the library.” The title, “Cypher,” refers to the complexities of language, essential to the function of a library and the books it holds inside. The fact that these works have such a deep meaning to the library is very satisfying to me. As a child the massive sculptures stationed outside the entrances where always pictured in my mind when I thought of the books that was kept inside.
These sculptures, however, have a deeper meaning of acting as a marker for the building, which goes back years before they were even created. The Daniel Boone Regional Library was not always in its current location. In 1959 it started as a bookmobile following a grant-funded regional bookmobile experiment that ended up being popular with the community. The library continued to expand until it moved to Broadway Street in 2002. This was such a big milestone for the building, as in the first six days since its opening over  patrons checked out 43,513 items. The library added the sculptures during the reopening and they have stood as a sign of its past and future accomplishments. Since then the statues have become a landmark for both the library itself as well as Columbia, MO in general.